These unfamiliar generic drugs

In this year of 2015 the rainy season is late in coming to an end. We have had another two rainfalls in November. It is as if the malaria parasite makes the most of the wet weather to gain in strength. And the malaria has not spared the young students, already burdened with the difficulty of paying their tuition fees.

Some of them have shown me their medical prescriptions, such as this :

  1. ARTEFAN - and in the margin the price, in red, paid at the pharmacy, 2500 francs
  2. EFFERALGAN - 1300 francs

Some of the students bought and paid. Others came out empty-handed. One of them is in his final year and had 2000 francs with him. But he had never heard of generic drugs.

He had been six years in primary education, followed by six years in secondary school, but nobody had explained anything about generic drugs (not even in natural science classes). He comes from a poor family, but no nurse or pharmacist had suggested to him that he could buy the generic drug.

He had not come across the poster on the picture here (photographed on a signboard at the entrance of Ouagadougou) which reads “GENERIC AND GENEROUS”. One might add “GENERIC AND UNFAMILIAR”.

The time has come to get to know and make known that the generic is not a drug of lesser quality, even if less expensive.

Let us get back to our prescription and find out where the ARTEFAN gets its name from. It is in fact a brand name. It has been discovered and developed by a pharmaceutical laboratory following many years of work. The laboratory most certainly has had to pay a great number of research workers, spending vast sums of money. Therefore the product has been given a brand name and secured a patent protecting its copyrights for 20 years. To set the selling price the laboratory has taken into account not only the production price but also its costs for research and development, excluding others from making copies.

At present the 20 year patent rights have expired. Other laboratories make copies of excellent quality. They have not had to spend on the research. They can base the selling price merely on the production costs. These copies are sold at a much lower price. They are put on the market under a different name, but giving details of the ingredients. They are all in all copies of the original. Only the price differs. They are just as efficient but much less expensive.

These copies is what is meant by « generic drugs ».

Back to the prescription once again. ARTEFAN is a brand name , made up by the names of two of its ingredients, Artéméther and Luméfantrine. using the first syllable of one and the second of the other.

Their generic equivalent generally sticks to the original substance names and is sold either as

«Artéméther or Luméfantrine pills; »

others are given a new name for example Lumartem (see picture), again made up of syllables of the original substances.

EFFERALGAN is also a brand name. Its generic equivalent is Paracetamol, well known to all.

To pay for a prescription of Artéfan + Efferalgan you have to disburse 3 800 francs;

As for myself I have long since replaced my malaria brand with a generic drug (picture above). A set of 24 tablets of Artéméther and Luméfantrine costs 1200 francs, sufficient to cure one adult or three children (we shall come back to this aspect later) + two sets of Paracetamol (2 x 75 tablets), all for the sum of 1 350 francs.

With all my best wishes for your good health.

Koudougou; November 9 2015
Maurice Oudet
Director SEDELAN

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